Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
June 2nd, 2016 by Joel Watts

The Need for Opposing Viewpoints

When I was in high school, I discovered a series of books titled, Opposing Viewpoints. This series introduced a controversial topic that allowed for equal time for those on each side (or sometimes several sides) of an issue to present their case. The arguments were not surface level but allowed for deep insight into the case for/against the particular issue. I started to read these when I was a high school freshman, which helped not only chart my viewpoints, but so too taught me how to look at another perspective. Indeed, I maintain that perspective sharing is a lost art in the American psyche. It is entirely possible to view another person’s point, understand their perspective, and yet still wholly disagree.

There are issues worth engaging in this way. Of course, it is necessary to understand the ground rules, so to speak. First, the issue needs to matter. We aren’t talking about whether or not to name a town one thing or another, but something serious with moral repercussions that involves people’s lives and livelihoods. Another, is that we need to be ready to be moved and to move. I do not understand the need to state your opinion and not defend it. At some point, arguments will cease, but so often, we state our opinions and recoil in horror if someone dares challenge us. In moving the other person, we have to actually start with them. That’s where such titles as Opposing Viewpoints come in. It helps us to understand where the other person is. As Goulston and Ullman point out, we need to understand “their there.”

The Gospel is an argument — it is the argument. It is the statement that there is a line in the sand between the world and the Kingdom of God. It is the active movement of God against the world to reconcile each and every one of us to Himself. Jesus is the crucible, the very fulcrum of the argument the Trinity has made against Satan. It is only necessary that we participate in this argument by attempt to better understand it and in understanding it, we better find where we fit.

This is why the arguments around the necessary theologies of the Church are important. The books of God are clear that it does in fact matter what we believe. Believing is what believers do to better attune ourselves to the Cosmic Argument. But, we must be challenged in our belief. We must be challenged so as to understand our beliefs and why we hold to them. Only in these challenges does our faith become manifest for what it actually is.

I have no issue hosting these arguments. You will see bloggers on this forum disagree from time to time. You will disagree with them, from time to time. Yes, we need to issue our own opposing viewpoints. To that end, I do believe we can argue best when we are united on the essentials. As you know, the essentials in my opinion can be found best in the Nicene Creed, although the Apostles’ Creed is acceptable. In other words, we must generally agree in the Trinity. Then, let us discuss our differences.

I look at the conservative wing of The United Methodist Church. They have inerrants, infalliblists, inspirationists along with those who debate between sola or prima scriptura. Yet, all of them believe Scripture is the authority, the rule and guide of our faith. What we can then discuss is to what extent Tradition is a guide for interpretation, or Reason for that matter. Because they are united at the level of Scripture, then can then talk about other things and see if they can move one another — or if it is even necessary to move one other.

In this time of confusion for The United Methodist Church, many of us are attempting to find ways to provide something different. Perhaps it is a new voice or a new way of speaking — or perhaps it is a new way of keeping silent. Regardless, in what we see a leadership vacuum, we have to each step up. This is the way some of us are doing it, but extending to others the grace of argument. So, if you see something on here you don’t agree with, leave a comment. Engage. Do not slander or otherwise harm the person, but engage as we must.

And if you want to participate in the conversation, let me know.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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